Hindustan Times (Lucknow)
BJP in election mode as key leader gathers feedback from UP ministers
Party leader BL Santhosh’s report may form the basis of any likely changes in the BJP or govt’s functioning ahead of assembly polls, say party leaders
Bharatiya Janata Party’s national general secretary (organisation) BL Santhosh met ministers in the Yogi Adityanath government at the party office here on Tuesday to gather feedback on the performance of the BJP in the panchayat poll in which more zila panchayat members backed by the opposition Samajwadi Party won than the ones backed by the ruling party.
Throughout the day, the top BJP leader met several ministers who visited the party office with their “report card”. Santhosh had met ministers on Monday also and later had a dinner meeting with chief minister Yogi Adityanath. “The churning has begun. The party is in election mode,” a top leader said.
Deputy chief minister Keshav Prasad Maurya, a prominent OBC face of the BJP, was among the first of Yogi ministers to meet Santhosh on Tuesday. Maurya scotched rumours about him being made the state BJP chief again.
The current UP BJP chief Swatantra Dev is also an OBC. Though there are a few in the BJP who believe that the state chief could be on a sticky wicket, Maurya said, “We will win 300 seats in 2022 UP polls under adhyakshji (party president).”
In 2017 UP polls, the BJP had gone into the elections with Maurya as OBC face and state BJP chief holding maximum meetings in areas dominated by backward castes. Santhosh also met several other OBC ministers - Swami Prasad Maurya, labour minister; Anil Rajbhar, backward classes welfare minister as well as Gulab Devi, minister of state for social welfare, a dalit.
Swami Prasad Maurya, who was the Bahujan Samaj Party’s OBC face, before joining the BJP, said the focus of the meeting was on 2022 UP polls. “All discussions were focused on 2022 UP polls,” Maurya admitted and denied speculation on feedback being linked to any possible changes the party leadership in the state. Rajbhar said feedback was taken on various issues.
The BJP leaders said Santhosh’s visit has set the tone for the party in UP and would be followed by more such poll-related organisational visits by leaders including party chief JP Nadda, who, prior to his current position was the UP in-charge in 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Nadda’s predecessor and union home minister Amit Shah too had been UP in-charge in 2014 Lok Sabha and 2017 UP polls.
Deputy chief minister Dinesh Sharma, an old organisational hand, too met Santhosh. “The focus was on how to provide better help to people in Covid times,” said Sharma, who is also the minister in-charge of Rae Bareli -- Lok Sabha constituency of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi.
Many MLAs – several of whom have been flagging unpleasant queries regarding Covid mismanagement – too had sought time but their meeting was not scheduled on Tuesday.
“As of now, only ministers and functionaries are meeting,” a state party leader cleared.
After meeting ministers, Santhosh, a senior RSS leader himself, left the party office for a while and is believed to have held a meeting with Sangh leaders. BJP leaders said Santhosh quietly heard everything from Covid devastation to coordination issues between party and government, issues of BJP MLAs feeling helpless against bureaucrats. His report, BJP leaders felt, would form the basis of any likely changes in party or government’s functioning ahead of assembly polls.
Santhosh had visited Lucknow ahead of the panchayat polls in March and had asked the party to hold ‘gram chaupals’ (village meets). Post polls, reviewing the performance of the party backed candidates, the BJP top leader again outlined the need to continue the outreach campaign – ‘seva hi sangathan’ – with added focus in rural areas.
Directions have been given to assuage the bad feelings among those who had lost their relatives during the peak of Covid second wave, party leaders said.
BJP sources said there is a feeling that the anger in villages was over the initial level of mismanagement, lack of adequate and timely help in hospitalisation and providing oxygen supplies, which played a role in panchayat poll results.
“That is why specific instructions were sent by the party to avoid any celebrations on the completion of seven years of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government on May 30 and focus on connecting with villages. Of the 403 assembly segments, 299 have complete or partial rural character, BJP leaders said.
“Cadres would visit those who have lost their relatives in the second wave of Covid infection. We will also roll out a mass sensitisation campaign to make villagers aware of the need for vaccination. Additionally, we also intend to appoint cadres at the gram sabha level for sensitisation and help,” said Govind Narayan Shukla, UP BJP general secretary.
“We are going to go to the people, both to help them as well as tell them about the achievements of the party and the government,” said Anil Rajbhar, minister for backward class welfare. UP BJP in-charge Radha Mohan Singh said: “We also discussed ways to counter the speculated third wave and prepare for it beforehand.”
Panchayat polls weren’t contested on party symbols but the parties had backed candidates and the BJP had hyped the rural polls, tasking ministers too with the responsibility of areas which they represented.